First SMFD Line-of-Duty Death
by Doug Welch,
Town of Manchester Fire Department Historian and Retired Firefighter

The first line of duty death of a South Manchester fire fighter occurred on April 20, 1921. Edward W. Post was a member and former foreman of Orford Hose Company #3 who, at the time, had their quarters on Purnell Place.

Mr. Post was born in New Britain, Connecticut on January 12, 1882 to Conrad Post and Mary (Wolfer) Post. The Posts had immigrated to the U.S. from Germany.

On one of the occasions when I was meeting with the late Frank Robinson, who was in his 90's at the time, I asked if he knew any of the details of how Mr. Post had died. I was surprised when "Robbie" told me that it was a motor vehicle accident and that he (Frank) had been driving the car that struck Mr. Post.

At the time of the accident, Frank Robinson was a volunteer fire fighter for Company #1 on Pine Street, and was also an employee of the Cheney family and Cheney Brothers Silk Mills. He was sitting in a Cheney Brother's owned car on Main Street near Oak Street waiting for his passenger, James O. McCaw to return. Mr. McCaw was the Assistant Superintendent of Fire Alarms for the South Manchester department at the time.

A fire alarm began sounding from the Cheney whistle. It sounded out the number of blasts for an alarm box located at East Center and Walker Streets. It was necessary, in those days, for the Alarm Superintendent or his Assistant to respond to the box location, unlock it, and sound a 'recall' from the box when the situation was deemed under control.

James McCaw jumped in the passenger side of the car while "Robbie" drove. They proceeded up Main Street on their way to the box. When they approached Purnell Place, where Station #3 was located, they were watchful of Engine #3 coming out of the side street onto Main.

Edward Post had also heard the alarm from a garage on Bissell Street. As he was the driver of the automobile fire truck of Hose Co. #3, he quickly hitched a ride from a vehicle parked in front of the garage to transport him to Purnell Place to his fire station. They proceeded south down Main Street, and when he neared Purnell Place, he exited the passenger side of the vehicle. He then ran around the rear of the car and proceeded to cross the street.

Frank Robinson was traveling in the opposite direction and did not see Mr. Post emerge from the rear of the car until it was too late. The left front fender of the auto struck Mr. Post and a front wheel passed over him. He was quickly brought to the hospital in another auto where he remained consciousness and retained his faculties until succumbing to his injuries about two hours later. Edward W. Post was 39 years old and had been employed as an undertaker for some twenty years. He was survived by his widow Grace (Hayes) Post, and two sons, Edward Andrew, 13, and John Robert, 11.

Oddly enough, this was not the first fire-related accident for Mr. Post. On July 24, 1913, Mr. Post was assisting at a house fire on Hartford Road. He was on the slate roof of the building holding onto a hose line when he lost his footing and fell about 25 feet to the ground. He was uninjured, but the fact that he was an undertaker caused his fellow fire fighters to joke that he was unwilling to give a competitor a job.

Edward Post died without the benefit of a pension or local insurance or compensation. In the weeks following his death, the South Manchester Fire District collected voluntary donations from the department and the community "as a spontaneous and unsolicited commendation of his service to the community" to be presented to his widow.

Following this tragedy, the South Manchester Fire District contracted for insurance coverage on their fire fighters while responding to, working at, or returning from a fire call. It is believed to be the first volunteer organization to be so insured.

(Information for this article was obtained from the files of the South Manchester News, the Hartford Courant and from a conversation with Frank Robinson).

February, 2008